By on June 25, 2015

2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 with Rebecca Turrell

Maybe it’s the horrific condition of most New England roads. Maybe it was because we just had snowiest winter in Boston since anyone’s been counting. Or maybe, just maybe, I have finally fully succumbed to my Napoleon Complex.

“The great proof of madness is the disproportion of one’s designs to one’s means.”
―Napoleon Bonaparte 

What started off with me buying my first liter bike has blossomed (*tear*) into the purchase of my first pickup truck: 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4×4 double cab short bed with a…..dun dada dun….6-speed manual gear box. I know the Tacoma has remained relatively unchanged since 2004 – actually, it’s pretty much the same truck I’ve been lusting over since 2007. I know that it doesn’t have great fuel economy. I know that there are trucks with better technology in them. But hear me out!

Like every vehicle I’ve ever owned (with the exception of one moment of weakness that lasted for a month…don’t judge me), a manual transmission is a requirement. So when I started my quest for a pickup truck, the list quickly narrowed:

  • Colorado/Canyon twins manual only in RWD base models. I also can’t deal with this giant plastic lip. On what planet does that look good?
  • Nissan Frontier: Is there an explanation needed? It’s a big plastic baby rattle
  • Anything full sized No manual option unless I’m a parts runner (which I’m not…)

Other requirements included:

  • Double cab
  • V6 or greater
  • 4×4
  • Tow Package
  • Audio controls on the steering wheel (a taller order than I had anticipated)

Anticipated uses include pulling my trailer, hauling motorcycles in the back for work and play, home improvement projects, and, God willing, some off-roading. While I’ve driven many trucks, I’ve only ever owned compact sports cars (Z4, GS-R, SI, 328i, 330ci, etc), so the joy of the driving experience is important to me.

While I ran through the options – both foreign and domestic – I kept coming back to my long time crush: Toyota Tacoma. 70 percent residual after 36 months, tons of aftermarket parts and accessories available, it checked all of my boxes, and it’s cute! (Is that a turn off? Ah well.) I had to order the truck because, as my boyfriend points out, “there are 15,000 Tacomas on the ground at dealerships and none of them are what you want!” After a couple of months, and some parts shopping, she was finally home!

2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4

Yes, that is the TRD exhaust and TRD Trail Team wheels in the back of the truck that I ordered before we ever even met.

40 miles and less than 24 hours later she looked like this:

2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4

In the 500 miles that I’ve had her, I’ve picked up sod, pulled a trailer and transported three motorcycles. The truck came with four D-rings, four cleats and a trailer hitch, making all of this a breeze.

How does she compare to other trucks? I’ve clocked a decent amount of miles on a variety of trucks (with and without trailers), which should qualify me to make these comparisons: Nissan Frontier, Dodge Ram 1500, F-150 extended cab V6 non-Ecoboost, V6 Silverado regular cab, Z71 Silverado, F-350 stake body, and that one time I was allowed to drive a manual transmission Sterling box truck.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room, the transmission. Why a manual? Maybe I’m a control freak, but I rarely drive an automatic without saying at some point “why did we shift there?” Especially in the snow, a manual gives you more control (ex: downshifting rather than braking). I also find that it keeps me more alert and, finally, it’s way more fun. Where the transmission becomes especially significant is in my experience with other V6 trucks. I’m just going to call them gear hunters, because that is all they do. Without a trailer, uphill, downhill, cruise on or off, they never seem to find the right gear. I cursed the F-150’s gear indicator for letting me know it was in fourth the majority of the time rather than sixth. It’s like the transmissions and engines are mismatched. Maybe they are. On the same stretch of highway, I was able to take the Tacoma and two bikes up and downhill for an hour in sixth gear. I was always in the power, and never once had to downshift to accelerate or maintain speed.

2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 with motorcycle

The Tacoma is very smooth, especially compared to a Frontier. It handles well and is much easier to maneuver in parking lot situations than a full-sized truck. The steering wheel doesn’t require heavy inputs, but also doesn’t feel like it’s going to fly away from you. It is also fairly thick, making it quite comfortable. The 2014 F-150 drives like absolute butter, but has this annoying residual vibration every time you close the door or hit a bump. Rams tend to ride like a boat and fling me around the cabin going over bumps. The Z71 Silverado I had the pleasure of taking home a few nights this winter was a dream: tons of power, smooth, comfortable, and looked great. Biggest complaint was lack of audio controls on the steering wheel.

2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 interiorI had to have a double cab for getting stuff in and out of the backseat. I hate having to open one door in order to open another. There is also plenty of storage under and behind the seats of the Tacoma. I’ve been keeping all of my towing and tie down accessories in there and out of the way. The Tacoma also came with a cargo bed power outlet, which I look forward to trying out eventually. The manual option gives you a third cup holder, which has been fairly useless so far because the throws on the shifter are sooooo long and will knock over any bottle in it. I have the Toyota short throw “quick shifter” for it and I’m hopeful it will both improve the driving experience and create enough space for that third cup holder. The e-brake is a “pull and twist” style which has grown on me and seems to be pretty secure on inclines. Fold down headrests in the back are a lifesaver for reversing since I don’t quite trust the backup camera yet.

My final note about this truck is there’s a wealth of information available, as well as aftermarket parts and accessories. You can get analysis paralysis reading through all of the modifications and upgrades. I have already emotionally spent thousands more on a lift kit, bed extender, sliders, skids, and a hidden winch mount (because everyone needs a hidden winch, right?). I already have a tailgate reinforcement on order, as well as some other motorcycle hauling accessories. 31-inch tires should have definitely come on this truck from the factory. Same with the TRD exhaust; quiet at idle, but has a clean and deep note under acceleration. Everyone keeps telling me I need the TRD supercharger (you know who you are), but I find the truck to have more than enough power for my needs.

From a girl who has only owned “sporty” cars, this is the most excited I have been about a vehicle since my BMW days.

This reader review was written by Rebecca Turrell.

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46 Comments on “2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4×4 Reader Review...”

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “The e-brake is a “pull and twist” style which has grown on me and seems to be pretty secure on inclines.”

    Ha, the classic Japanese truck brake handle. I assume the bike was your solution to the up-or-out sports car performance dilemma?

    • 0 avatar

      When I was regularly driving my Toyota Hilux, I couldn’t get behind the wheel of any car without subconsciously reaching down to release the brake – which looked odd when it wasn’t the Toyota. I’m glad they’re still using the pull and twist.

  • avatar

    Any regrets on getting the TRD-Sport rather than the “regular” TRD package and missing out on the rear locking differential? or is that not even possible with the 6spd manual?

    I rather liked the 2014 TRD short bedQuad Cab (auto) that I test drove, but couldn’t justify loosing the convenience of a covered 6″ long space that I could sleep in as I have now in the 4Runner. Oh and it’d be great if they added the power lowering glass from the Tundra to the Tacoma rather than just the sliding middle piece.

    • 0 avatar

      “power lowering glass from the Tundra” yes to this
      “‘regular’ TRD package” and also to this…

      That roll down rear window was the coolest thing about the 2nd gen tundra we had as a field truck at school. I really hope that makes it into the next generation Taco. The TRD sport package does seem superficial compared to the “regular” one. More like a bro package…

      • 0 avatar

        If I was Toyota I’d put that power lowering glass across the whole SUV/CUV lineup. I think half the time people are repeat 4Runner buyers strictly based on that feature alone (well, that and the stupid good reliability/durability).

  • avatar

    That stupid front lip comes off the Colorado in about 10 minutes. Truck looks much better without it. Manual transmission install in the 4X4 Z71, well that might be a little more difficult.

  • avatar


    I recently got a Tacoma as well, and just love it. In my climate, and for my intended use, RWD is sufficient. I’m also a long time manual transmission control freak, but the stick was hard to come across, and really didn’t have great reviews. The auto actually suits the character of this truck pretty well. It’s not bad at all to live with; responsive enough when you stomp on it, and has a manu-matic mode which is good enough for the few steep hills I’ve been on. Mostly I’m just moseying around the suburbs, and every few weeks will load up the kids and camping gear. No hard care off-roading. Lots of mulch and shrubs in its future. It’s the dad-mobile. And it’s brown, which is internet cool, and looks okay if it hasn’t been washed for a day or two (enjoy your black truck… I lived 9 years with a black Suburban – never again!) And it fits in my garage, FTW.

    I did test the Frontier, and was offered a VERY good deal on a leftover 2014. But there’s a reason it was still sitting there… “big plastic baby rattle” as you put it. It was okay, for a truck, and actually had some features the Tacoma does not (heated seats, auto climate control). I went into this knowing that no truck was going to be as plush as the Accord I was coming out of, but the Frontier had the worst steering wheel, which totally turned me off, even more than some of the other chintzy interior bits. The Tacoma is a little dated, but it does feel really well built. The ride and handling on the Taco are much better. Steering is good, turning radius is impressive, the ride is smoother than I expected, and it doesn’t roll over in the curves. Nissan makes some really nice cars and CUVs, but their trucks are way behind the curve, which is saying a lot considering the Tacoma is basically a 10-year-old design…

    Happy trails!

    • 0 avatar

      Re: Nissan truck interiors

      I don’t consider myself a dash-plastic stroking snob by any stretch, and even I was very turned off by the Nissan Xterra’s interior (same as Frontier). It’s just that even all of the touch surfaces (shifter, wheel, elbow rests) all feel nasty. Tacoma’s interior is plastic fantastic, but it feels like quality, durable stuff. 2014+ 4Runners are a different story altogether, very nicely put together interiors IMO. Then again the price delta kind of makes sense. You can find a decently equipped super low mile Xterra for low $20k, I’ve yet to see a used 2014 SR5 4Runner for less than $30k, at which point you might as well buy new. Despite the criticism, I’d still buy an Xterra (6spd manual please!) if only it had more length to the cargo area. Hard to argue with that bang for the buck!

  • avatar

    The Tacoma is an old truck, but it still holds its own in terms of design as long as you get it spec’d with 6-lug wheels; the 5-lug ’04 Corolla wheels are hillarious and the truck has this weird inboard track like a ’74 Delta Eighty-Eight.

    The Frontier is a joke in comparion to even an ’06 Dakota.

  • avatar

    You could have been talking about my 95 4runner with most of your comments. Had it for a year and a half and have not looked back. With the trailer I have the best of both worlds and I love having a stick after suffering through some debacles with modern hi efficiency automatic transmissions.

    Luck to you. I expect to keep mine till past 300k miles.

  • avatar

    Can’t get a prerunner with the 6 speed manual… Lame… These things have seriously gone up in price the last few years too. My friends both bought TRD prerunner crew cabs in 09 and 10 for around $25k which advertise for $30k now… They are still too long for my garage, so unless the ’16 gets much better gas mileage, I’d just as soon get a full sized truck.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      My parents leased then bought a 2009 Prerunner double cab SB SR5 which I recently bought from my mom. What completely amazes me is that with just over 25k miles I feel confident I could sell it for close to $23k based on the asking prices for similar models. I found the sticker in the glove box and it was originally priced at just over $25k.

      The price of cars (new and used) is outta control.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s why I bought new. Try to find a used one with low miles, that isn’t darn near as expensive as the brand new ones. Wasn’t planning to spend $31K, but at least I’ll never be upside down.

  • avatar

    Ah, the hell hole named Boston where I used to live. It was a nightmare to own a sports car there because everybody has a minivan, a truck or an SUV which they have no clue how to drive properly. Of course I’m not talking about the small ones like this Toyota here but the big rigs. But I’m still glad I live in sports car heaven now – California.

  • avatar

    I got one rule for pickups, if the cab is bigger than the bed, then maybe you should buy a SUV.

    • 0 avatar

      Come on man, it’s not like it’s an H2 SUT… Even a short 5’2″ open bed has many advantages over a carpeted cargo hold.

    • 0 avatar

      tough to get a bike in the back of an SUV though

    • 0 avatar

      So, nobody can have a pickup if they need to move four people?

      Because even with an 8′ bed, the cab is longer than the bed on *every full size truck in America*.

      (An 8′ bed is 96″ long.

      Ford? The SuperDuty’s Regular Cab is 118.9″ from bumper to back of cab. The F-150 is 121.5″!

      The Ram Tradesman lists no cab length, but an OAL of 231″ and a 98″ bed – 98″ is a lot less than half of 231″; There’s no way the cab is shorter than 98″.

      Sierra 1500 Regular Cab? 116.9″ Long.

      You literally cannot *buy* a full size pickup with a longer bed than cab.)

    • 0 avatar

      Fred, I’m with you.

      Sigivald, I don’t think you need to include anything forward of the firewall when considering “cab” length in Fred’s context.

  • avatar

    Sharp looking truck. My ’97 T100 which I purchased in ’99 has been hands down the best vehicle I have ever owned. And the size is perfect…very similar to the current Tacoma.

  • avatar

    Nice truck! And actually used for trucky things! Special ordered with a stick no less.

    My only comment is – what was Toyota thinking with “TRD”? Is there anyone who can see that and not read it as “TuRD”? I realize I have an 8th grade mentality most days, but so do most males of the species.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s an even more politically-incorrect vowel to use there… Not that I would ever think such a mean thing.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, Subaru is able to sell a vehicle in the UK wearing the acronym “STI”, which refers to “Sexually-Transmitted Infection” there…so by and large it seems that customers are able to overcome these crude likenesses. But I actually hadn’t noticed “TuRD” before. Now that will be on my mind every time I see a TRD vehicle, even though I like them.

  • avatar

    There’s a lot to love about the CBR1000RR and red, white and blue is my favorite color scheme. It’s amazing that it and the ZX-10R still hold their own against the techno fest Germans, Italians, and the R1.

    I’m hearing whispers that a new V4 powered CBR is on the way for 2016. Any particular reason you didn’t wait to see what Honda would do? Also, I demoed a S1000R a few weeks ago. Very nice motorcycle. Lots of power and very smooth.

    Okay, you wrote this about your truck. For the most part reviewers don’t really mention the backseat, besides pointing out that it has one. How big is the seat and do you routinely carry people back there? Would it be comfortable for a multi-hour road trip?

    Last motorcycle comment. Have you had the good fortune to see/sit on the 2016 Tuono 1100 Factory? I really liked the previous Tuono but this one has my heart. Haven’t seen it in person yet but from pictures and video the subtle tweaks Aprilia has made really work.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll jump in. Back seat is actually decent. My boys are about 5′ tall now and comfortable there. I’m 6’2″ and I’ve got the driver seat about two notches from its furthest setting. Front leg room is good, so you don’t have to slide it all the way back. I can “sit behind myself”, but I wouldn’t want to for more than half an hour. They don’t mind three across, just because riding in dad’s truck is fun… But it’s a narrow truck, it’s really best for four passengers. Very upright seat back, but it’s well padded, and head room is fine. It’s no Tundra CrewMax or F150 SuperCrew, but it’s better than the Frontier, and better than the full-size trucks’ “access cabs”.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I read this and thought — whoa, a woman who owns a RWB Honda motorcycle, how are we not already sexually entangled.

      • 0 avatar

        Columbus is a long way from Boston…

      • 0 avatar

        We definitely need more articles by Rebecca….

      • 0 avatar

        Maybe she’s read your work?!


      • 0 avatar

        Jack, while you seem to be a quick change artist at tangling alliances, you also seem to find yourself perpetually already in a tangling alliance.

        You must be an artist at juggling, but it must also be difficult to keep track of the players without a scorecard, or to correctly rank your options with imperfect knowledge.

        Though I’m sure you seek to know all that you can. :-)

        Good luck to you in all your adventures. I still remember the lifestyle and the game, though I am glad that for me, that phase of my life is over. Still, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

        Looking forward to yet another tale of your adventures, regardless of venue.

        I must confess that I thought Danger Girl seemed to have your number, when she came into the airport to make sure you didn’t get lost.

        I’m making book with myself about who will be featured in your next non-automotive venture. But I wish you only the best, whichever route you follow.

  • avatar

    Why no Tacoma TRD Pro? It has all the modifications from the factory and an even more insane resale value! (I may be biased because I had a 4Runner TRD Pro for a week and loved it.)

  • avatar

    Tacomas can do this, too. Yeah, Taco!

  • avatar

    Great read. The upcoming 16 version of this truck is on my “read, watch and drive” list.

    Inspired in part by Sajeev’s comments the other week about his truck with shocks, etc. being a relatively rewarding and sporting RWD street driving experience.

  • avatar

    The only full sized truck still available with a manual transmission is a Ram Cummins 2500 or 3500.

    Manual transmissions are nice as far as compression braking but virtually every newer truck I have been in has “select gear” and/or tow/haul mode.

    My 2010 does not have the button to pick your gear but has tow/haul. When you want compression braking just engage tow/haul. You apply light braking and it will shift down and hold. Another brake application and another downshift and hold. It works very well. Just disengage it the moment you don’t need the compression braking. I don’t miss the manual transmission.

    In Canada if you buy a Tacoma crew with manual transmission all you get is the shorter box. Is the USA the same?
    Tow ratings tend to be higher with auto transmission.

    The back seats are actually pretty good in the Tacoma. Amazingly better than the new Colorado crew. My 13 year old son is closing in on 5’8″ and found the Colorado back seat made him feel like he was in airplane crash position. That was a big negative for me with the Colorado. The interior fit and finish was vastly superior in the Colorado. I won’t buy a vehicle that won’t keep my growing boys happy.

  • avatar

    I’m not a “truck person,” but I would buy a Tundra TRD 4×4 over anything else if I was getting a truck.

    It’s right sized.

    It’s durable/reliable (motor & transmission, especially).

    It has awesome resale value.

    It isn’t all blinged out and marshmallowed to the point of ridiculousness like so many domestic trucks.

    It has the right combination of utility, versatility & “truckness,” while still not being too crude or uncomfortable.

    And, IMO, it wears the slightly murdered-out look as above better (less brashly) than most trucks.

    • 0 avatar

      DeadWeight – I took a close look at the Tacoma in 2010 when I was looking for a new truck. The biggest killers for me were a low cargo rating (IIRC 1000 lb) and tow ratings were okay but I prefer more capacity there too. A 13k discount and a 3k trade value on my Safari van was the clincher. The Tacoma after discounts was more expensive than the F150 I got. The F150 had a decent durability rating from various sources as well. I follow various stats and the F150 durability dropped after 2010 which is typical of new drivetrain releases.

      • 0 avatar

        The Tacoma’s rather low payload is at least partially explained by its US-centric design: We get a lighter duty C-channel frame rather than the fully boxed, heavier one of the global Hilux, and I can almost guarantee we have softer leaf springs on our US model, hence the very decent ride. When the Hilux and US “Pickup” model split in 1994, the new for 1995 Tacoma was intended to be more of a pleasure rather than work vehicle. Towing a pair of jet skis or motorcycles, hauling an ATV in the bed, going camping in the wilderness. Now, they’re still plenty durable for MOST things that people do with them, but I’ve heard from desert racers that under those severe-use conditions, the Tacoma frame just doesn’t hold up like the old Pickups.

        As far as the Tundra is concerned, I’d heard mixed things as well regarding the logic of having a C-channel frame there (albeit a very beefy one). Domestic-truck drivers love to point to online videos of Tundras taken down those alternating-wheel speed bump tests that jiggle the bed violently side to side, showing twist in the frame. But I’ve also read that there was a method to the madness in that. Supposedly the Tundra has stiffer leaf springs than most other competitors, to keep the truck more level with very heavy loads. The frame is purposely made with a bit of flex (while remaining strong enough to resist any permanent deformation) to give the truck a smoother ride when unladen. Not sure if there is any truth to that, or if it’s just Tundra fanbois coming up with excuses for their trucks’ twerking habit.

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          I suppose it’s similar to OTR trucks having some flex designed into their frames, so they can bend without breaking when starting a heavy load.

        • 0 avatar

          gtemnykh – too stiff a frame can be a problem in itself. Since the author has a sport bike I’ll use bikes as an example. When sport bikes and even motocross bikes went to perimeter frames they found ride and handling in many cases got worse requiring them to rework suspension and steering geometry. They even redesigned the frames for “controlled” flex.

          I do think that one reason truck companies have gone to stiffer frames is because they have made the bodies lighter and weaker.

          Try securing a load with ratcheting tie downs by hooking on to the box rail lip. You will bend up the lip.
          Bed pockets have also become so flimsy that accessory companies recommend that you do not use them as anchor points.

          There is a reason why truck companies now have anchor points low down in the box.

  • avatar

    I’d be curious to know: 1) What you paid for the truck as-delivered 2) What you paid for all the +40hrs accessories including install.

    • 0 avatar

      A lady doesn’t kiss and tell…But I’d be surprised if I had more than 5 hours into all of the installation. Most of the parts I’ve been able to put on myself, or have someone do in a short amount of time. I’m still coming in under the cost of a TRD Pro

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